Dear Kol Ami family and friends,
Many of us were taught as children that we are supposed to assume other people’s pronouns, usually based on additional assumptions about that person’s gender. However, the practice of assuming another person’s pronouns, as well as assuming another person’s gender, does not honor that person’s identity and experience. (And it’s important to note that personal pronouns do not always have to do with someone’s gender or lack thereof at all!)
We were each created B'tzelem Elohim, or in the image of Godliness. When we honor the sacred worth and dignity of every person, we are committed to referring to all people using the language they themselves determine to be most appropriate. This includes using pronoun series we may not be familiar with yet. We ask that each of us help build a Kehillah Kedoshah, a holy community, by sharing their preferred pronouns in their Zoom name and on name tags when we meet in person, God-willing, may it be speedily in our day.
Many of us regularly use she/her or he/him pronouns when referring to someone in the third person. “She is talking to her friend.” “He brought his bike.” Singular they/them pronouns are also becoming more widely used to refer to a single individual (though the use of singular “they” goes back hundreds of years in English). “Their dress is cute. Ask them where they got it.” Another pronoun series we might encounter is ze/hir. “Ze built that chair all by hirself.” A different variation is ze/zir. “Ze played zir best today. I’m so inspired by zir.” There are more pronoun series than these, such as per/pers, xe/xem, and more. If you encounter a pronoun set you are unfamiliar with, do research on how to use them properly. Additionally, some people are referred to by no pronouns, only their name. For a person named Shir who has no pronouns, you would say, “Shir invited us over to Shir's house.”
For more information on personal pronouns, we recommend visiting Shige Sakurai’s website MyPronouns.org, which includes excellent, in-depth resources and examples on how to engage with personal pronouns in intentional and welcoming ways.
Todah Rabah, Abundant Thanks! To each of you who help build compassion and respect in our communities one decision, one right act, at a time.
May God bless you and keep you,
Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg
Kol Ami: A Center of Jewish Life BOD
Jennifer Phillips McLellen
Jesse Zook Mann
Text adapted from Unitarian Universalist Association